How Switching Careers Changed My Life

career switch makes leo lighter
IN 2008, I WAS MAKING GOOD MONEY as a network administrator. I received an offer from another company that would have bumped my earnings significantly. I turned it down.

My career wasn’t satisfying like it once was. And more money, I reasoned, wouldn’t make it better. The treadmill of industry certifications, the nights on call, the high-pressure environment and the overall lack of fulfillment had taken their toll.

Money is the motivating factor for most it seems, always going for the next highest paying position on the company ladder or jumping ship to a better paying job somewhere else. And while I’m not completely immune to the power of the almighty dollar, the bitterness and anxiety I felt about my work didn’t improve when I tried to visualize myself down the road, doing the same work, with more responsibility, at a higher salary.

I knew it was time for a change. My brain’s right side was craving attention after being suppressed for such a long time.

The first thing I did was take an acting class, which despite some apprehension in the beginning, allowed my introverted self some relief by inhabiting other peoples’ minds. Then I returned to an interest I had earlier in life: writing. My boss was worried, and he was right to be so.

I put my acting career on hold but kept writing and pursuing other interests including web design and Internet marketing. My wife got a new job in a different city, which gave me the chance for a clean break.

Emboldened by a couple of articles of mine that got published online (one of which paid just over $3), I applied for a part-time job writing for a content website. I was now a professional writer.

Though I was excited and enjoying my part-time job, the transition out of a lucrative line of work wasn’t easy. My father, with genuine concern and the best of intentions, tried to talk me out of it. Imagine the humiliation you might feel if your parents doled out career advice as if you were an adrift 20 year old when you were almost 40.

I did my best to ignore outside advice. I had interests to pursue and time to explore them. I took another part-time job doing search engine optimization (SEO) work and managing pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for a chiropractic office. Then my wife and I had our first and only child.

A full-time web copywriter and account manager position came along and didn’t work out. Then I started my own web design company with a partner. We had a few clients and a lot of fun doing and learning, but we weren’t establishing a client base quickly enough to make ends meet financially.

Eventually, I landed a content editor job with a large hospitality company — finally achieving financial stability in my new chosen field. It may not be the ideal job, but it’s a good fit. I’m in the business of digital storytelling, which is where I want to be.

Though it happened gradually, when I compare my new life to my old life, things have changed significantly. I do sometimes have regrets about the money I could be making and the status I could be enjoying, but I’m not as agitated now as I was then.

Leo21Aug2014If you define happiness as a moment of pleasure and satisfaction, then put me down for happier too because I have more of those moments now than I used to. My Type-A personality may prevent me from enjoying life as consistently as I would hope, but the time I spend outside of work with my family and friends are moments nearly fully enjoyed, without job-related anxieties, pressures and thoughts occupying my mind.

By Leo K.


Legendary Tale Teller

He just said his name was “Boots.”

The walking tour guide, eyes smiling, despite the oppressive heat at 7 p.m. shared the tragic deaths of ordinary people:

  • the gentleman who wouldn’t pay the barber for his shave so the sheriff shot him,
  • the little girl who fell to her death while watching the circus parade into town,
  • the patients of an incompetent town doctor, and
  • so many more.

Granbury Ghost Tour Guide

Their spirits haunt Granbury, Texas. You can ask anyone in town; everyone seems to have had an encounter or two.

But Boots has a way of sharing that is mysterious, mischievous and downright entertaining.

Hats off to you, Boots.



Gary the Garage Door Repairman

ballroom dancing

Ballroom dancing is doable

You never know what you might find out about a person until you just listen.

This 6-ft tall gentleman wore a long-sleeved shirt and Wrangler jeans. He was more leg than anything and the wrinkles on his face were like grooves. But he still had quite a bit of hair.

Gary came to assess the damage and restore order. He did so expertly, taking the claw of the hammer to force out the pins and replace them, bending the frame to his will. He suggested upgrades but not in a pushy way; he was happy to demonstrate how things would be better in the hot garage.

I invited him to sit after the work was completed. He refused a glass of water because there was a Dr Pepper waiting in the truck. And then he shared his story.

A Marine, Gary was the recipient of not one, but two kidneys. The battle scars he showed me on his arm were fistulas from kidney dialysis. His story was really a story about someone else.

He said something like this:
People who go to dialysis act like they’re going to die. I didn’t. I just acted like it was something I had to do. I got next to people, not so bad that they’d get mad at me. Just so they might cheer up.

One woman, who initially came in using a walker, took note of Gary’s hijinks and commented that he liked to have fun. That idea must have settled well in her mind because sometime later, she came to the center and touched Gary’s shoulder. He noticed right away that she was walking unassisted. She had to come to tell him what she did the night before:

“I went ballroom dancing and it was all because of you.”

I’m very glad that Gary came to fix my garage door.


My Moment…

By Tony W.

For me, it was the moment I realized that I was going to have to change the thought process I went through each morning as I prepared for the day.

You see, for as long as I could remember I had been looking at myself in the mirror and thinking something along the lines of, “Yeah, you still look pretty good.” But actually that was code for “You don’t look old yet.” (Even in my thoughts I didn’t want to use the “O” word.) And based on my daily perception of what I was seeing in the mirror, it didn’t seem like I was aging much.  However, all along there were almost imperceptible changes occurring — a small wrinkle here, a little sag there. Eventually, especially when looking at myself in family pictures through the years, it became increasingly obvious; whether I liked it or not, I was indeed looking older.

But that wasn’t my moment. No, that was more like a “S#?%! I am starting to look older, better start taking better care of myself, better start using sunscreen, better start working out” kind of thing.  A call to arms to fight the effects of aging, with my mirror providing daily reports from the battlefield.

My actual moment came later when I realized that no matter what I did or how hard I tried, I was still going to look a little older every year/month/week/day. It is part of being human and it can’t be stopped, apparently not even if you are rich and famous like Mick Jagger or John Travolta.

And since aging is inevitable, I had better not be judging how good I feel about myself by whether the person looking back from the mirror each morning looks older than he did a day, week, month, year, or decade ago. Much better to set my sights each day on things I actually can control, instead of worrying about the impossible task of not growing older.

That was my moment, and since then I’ve made a conscious effort to reprogram my thinking about growing older. It’s not a battle, it’s not something to be feared or something to be sad about; it’s just an inevitable part of life for all of us. But of course, changing a thought process long held is easier said than done. I have found that, just like my appearance — and the appearance of all those around me, it’s a work in progress.

Younger Tony
A Younger Tony
Older Tony
An Older Tony

Coffee or Tea

Selecting the right hot beverage in the morning (or the afternoon) can be critical. I don’t know anyone who drinks both coffee and tea; there’s usually a preference. (I do know people who don’t drink either but that’s a topic for another time,)

When my coffee-drinking and cigarette-smoking parents said it was OK for me to drink coffee, I didn’t like the taste and the caffeine made me jittery. No kidding; one cup could wreck my day (or night).

Black tea, the most readily available tea at the time, was a better fit. A Lipton tea bag, boiling water from a tea kettle, and a spoonful of sugar became a fixed part of my routine. This natural sweetener was enough to quell any bitterness and I lost the shakes. (Teas typically have less caffeine than coffees.)  I also could function normally and sleep well.

My spouse has seen the tea light and only drinks a cup of coffee if he is driving a long distance and feeling drowsy (aside: Why do they make coffee so hot that it can burn?) Friends and neighbors who come to visit are invited to have a cup of tea or maybe a glass of water. On my mother’s last visit, she packed a jar of Maxwell House decaf. She knows better than to come empty-handed.

Eventually, as the tea market expanded, I tried green, chai, chamomile, and peppermint teas and even a variety to help me sleep. You can find blogs that try to type your personality based on your tea choices; at least one of these is fairly amusing.  If you crave serious tea information, visit this blog, Second Cuppa.

For me, I will continue to sample new flavors but only as teas.



Hippotherapy for My Hip (and My Soul)

Horse Spirit Rider Angela
By Angela N.

I was born with a deformed left hip joint. My parents, ranchers in North Central Texas, discovered the problem when I failed to walk around age one in the mid-1950s.

My life journey since then has included a number of challenges. Starting at age one, I spent six months in a “frog cast” from my armpits to my ankles to force the deformed hip socket to change from a plate shape to a more normal cup shape. Then when I was 28 years old an orthopedic surgeon told me that it would be a bad idea for me to go through a full-term pregnancy because my left hip joint was still fairly deformed. Finally, at age 52, I had successful total hip replacement performed by a talented Dallas surgeon (a grateful shout-out to Dr. Michael Champine!). Recently, I found out that my birth defect was caused by a rare connective tissue defect called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Now as a bionic babe, I am trying to live my life as normally as possible. For several years I assumed that I could never ride a horse again since tradition dictates that riders have to use their left legs to pull themselves up on horses’ left sides. Many horses would spook if riders tried to mount them from the right side.

This was a tough blow for a kid who got her first horse — a sweet paint horse named “Pronto, the Pinto” — in second grade. I was one of those horse crazy little girls who had horse figurines on a display shelf in her bedroom and adored books by Walter Farley, the author of The Black Stallion. Farley helped me to fall in love with reading.

Two years ago one of my friends who is a fellow horse addict suggested that I check out therapeutic riding places in the Dallas area. Known as hippotherapy (“Hippos” is Greek for horse), this type of therapy uses specially trained horses to help people with all types of disabilities. A recent magazine article in Experience Life magazine titled “Horse Power”
explains how hippotherapy helps riders boost their self-confidence through interaction with horses.

Starting in January 2014, I began taking riding lessons and volunteering at SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center in Corinth, Texas, which is north of Dallas. The facility serves adults with various health challenges and disabled children with conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy. Providing free services to financially disadvantaged children, the facility uses specially trained horses and staff to ensure the safety of the riders. They also have adaptive aids such as a wooden mounting platform with steps to help riders easily mount the horses.

The wonderful horses and staff at SpiritHorse have greatly enriched my life by letting me get back in touch with my inner cowgirl.

Culture and Respect

I know of an American widow who travels regularly to Afghanistan to help people who live there.

Her hair is gray, too.

But when she walks into a room of young people, they all stand up. Their respect is real; she has survived to an age that most of them will not. The World Health Rankings  say that people of Afghanistan can expect to live to about 60. In the US, life expectancy is closer to 80, particularly for women.

I like thinking of gray hair as something to desire rather than something to fear.